Reformist Masoud Pezeshkian emerges victorious in Iran presidential election race

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Reformist Masoud Pezeshkian emerges victorious in Iran presidential election race

TEHRAN, JUL 6: Reformist Masoud Pezeshkian has emerged victorious in the Iranian presidential run-off polls, the interior ministry said on Saturday.

The polls, held on Friday, saw Pezeshkian going up against Saeed Jalili in a closely contested race to become the country’s next president.

With the turnout reported to be around 50% on Friday, around 30 million Iranians cast their vote of which Pezeshkian received more than 16 million, whereas Jalili secured around 13 million votes, whereas around 600,000 ballots were declared “spoiled”.

The run-off elections were announced last month after none of the four candidates managed to secure more than 50% of the votes amid a historic low turnout of around 40% — the lowest yet in the history of the country.

In the first round of polls, Pezeshkian won the largest number of votes, around 42%, while Jalili — a conservative former nuclear negotiator who is currently serving as Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s representative in the Supreme National Security Council — came second with around 39%, according to figures from Iran’s elections authority.

The presidential elections, which were not due until 2025, were brought forward after late president Ebrahim Raisi died in a helicopter crash last month.

The polls coincide with escalating regional tension due to the war between Israel Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon, as well as increased Western pressure on Iran over its fast-advancing nuclear programme.

‘Will extend hand of friendship’
In his first remarks since being declared winner of a run-off vote, Pezeshkian said he would “extend the hand of friendship to everyone”

“We will extend the hand of friendship to everyone; we are all people of this country, we should use everyone for the progress of the country,” the president-elect said.

A triumph by Pezeshkian might promote a pragmatic foreign policy, ease tensions over now-stalled negotiations with major powers to revive a 2015 nuclear deal, and improve prospects for social liberalisation and political pluralism, analysts said.

However, many voters are skeptical about Pezeshkian’s ability to fulfil his campaign promises as the former health minister has publicly stated that he had no intention of confronting Iran’s power elite of clerics and security hawks.

The newly elected president is faithful to Iran’s theocratic rule with no intention of confronting the powerful security hawks and clerical rulers. In TV debates and interviews, he promised not to contest Khamenei’s policies.

Pezeshkian has vowed to revive the flagging economy, beset by mismanagement, state corruption and the United States sanctions.

Who is Iran’s new president-elect?
Pezeshkian 69, is a heart surgeon who has represented the northern city of Tabriz in parliament since 2008 and had the endorsement of his previous boss and Iran’s last reformist president Mohammad Khatami as well as ex-president Hasan Rouhani.

During the Iran-Iraq war in 1980s, Pezeshkian, a combatant and physician, was tasked with the deployment of medical teams to the front lines.

He was health minister from 2001-5 in Khatami’s second term

Pezeshkian lost his wife and one of his children in a car accident in 1994. He raised his surviving two sons and a daughter alone, opting to never remarry.